SIEM REAP is known for the grandeur of the incredible ruins of Angkor Wat. Yet on the outskirts of the temple compound live the region’s poorest people. While the country grows into relative stability and is enriched by foreign investment, the village of Mondo Bai hasn’t seen any of that yet.
The village is known for its ‘karaoke girls,’ who come from all over the country, all sharing some tragic yet common background, often one of being orphaned or abandoned. Entertaining local men while they sing karaoke is their only way to make a living—for all of about 2000 rupees a month.
Afternoons follow the routine of cleaning the rooms, putting on cheap make-up and waiting for customers—the girls all lined up on plastic chairs on the ‘street with no name.’ Their customers are Khmer men who will pay a dollar a beer while they sing romantic local songs, read from lyrics on the TV screen as the tunes scream from the cheap sound system.